So, there he was minding his own business, and an acquaintance walked up to greet him. After a few social pleasantries, he was told, “I am so jealous of you, because you ….” He was stunned. Surprised, in fact. He has nothing of which anyone should be jealous, nor is he anything of whom someone should be jealous. He’s just a Christian man who is seeking to serve God to the glory of His name.
He has the privilege of shepherding a small flock of God entrusted to his charge. He has a wonderful Titus 2-exemplifying godly wife, wonderful children and children-in-law, and maybe a few grandlittles. He has no abilities of which anyone should be jealous or envious. He makes do by God’s grace with what God has given to him.
He is a plodder. He is not an outstanding Bible-teacher, pastor, or church leader. He is not a great musician or administrator. He is definitely not a proficient blog-writer. He plods along, seeking by God’s grace to be faithful to Him. Many verses are precious to him, but 1st Corinthians 4:2 peals a more frequent tune in the belfry of his heart. “Now, in addition, what is sought in a steward is that he be found reliable.“
So this jealousy of which this acquaintance spoke of: can it ever be a good thing in the heart of a Christian? What does the New Testament show us about this attitude? Let’s look at the use of the word group from zeo [Strong's # 2204], zelos [# 2205], zeloo [# 2206], and zelotes [# 2207].
Negative zeal/jealousy: Acts 5:17; 7:9; 13:45; Romans 13:13; 1st Corinthians 3:3; 13:4; 2nd Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 4:17; 5:20; Philippians 3:6; James 3:14, 16; 4:2
Positive zeal: John 2:17; Acts 18:25; Romans 10:2; 12:11; 1st Corinthians 7:7; 12:31; 14:1, 39; 2nd Corinthians 7:11; 9:2; 11:2; Galatians 4:18; Colossians 4:13; Hebrews 10:27; Revelation 3:19
So, among other things, we learn that one can be appropriately zealous for the people and things of God, but we should never be jealous of the people of God. In other words, it is never pleasing to God to be jealous of another Christian.
Envy is only a slightly different from jealousy. See the Greek word group phthonos [# 5355] and phthoneo [# 5354].
Envy is normally negative: Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10; Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21, 26; Philippians 1:15; 1st Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1st Peter 2:1
But the Greek word may have a positive slant with the sense of being appropriately protective: James 4:5
In a future post I would like to address what the New Testament teaches about consequences of Jealousy and Envy.